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May 11, 2001

by Bill Hogan



The Dallas Mavericks may not make it past this weekend (down 0-3 to San Antonio in the Western Conference Semi-Finals). That's o.k., it's been a great year for the Mavs.

After all, it's been eleven years since the Mavericks were even in the playoffs. It's been about a year since Internet billionaire Mark Cuban bought the club. Coincidence?


Mark Cuban sits with the fans, cheers for his team and pampers his players. Mark Cuban is a Mavericks fan. Mark Cuban has been fined about a half-million dollars by NBA commissioner David Stern for his "outrageous behavior".

If the NBA has an image problem, if the NBA is suffering from a lack of interest by fans, don't look at Mark Cuban, it's not his fault. The team he has assembled in Dallas is popular, and, for the first time in a long time, successful.

I think David Stern needs to find another source of league revenue, and the sportswriters that cover the NBA need to remove their collective soapboxes from the steps of Reunion Arena and set up shop in some other town.

It has been written that Cuban's behavior in the stands (of the arena he owns) is unprofessional and childish. If these writers ever got the notion to venture out of the press box and into the cheap seats, they would notice full grown men and women with painted faces, jumping up and down, yelling and screaming (probably even waving a big fuzzy finger or two) and basically acting, well, childish.

Spike Lee wraps himself in an oversized Latrell Sprewell jersey and jumps up and down waving an orange towel at Knicks games - childish.

Jimmy Buffett was recently ejected from a Miami Heat game for yelling obscenities at the referees - childish.

David Stern should have signs posted at NBA arenas explaining that fans should conduct themselves in an orderly, professional manner at all times (coat and tie optional). Then, he can eliminate all this childish behavior.

Cuban will be appearing on an episode of "Wheel of Fortune" on May 15. I'm sure Stern would prefer a more sophisticated show. Maybe, "Jeopardy" or "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" (the latter would be like Michael Jordan appearing on "Who Wants To Be A Superstar").

Let's get some more fan-friendly, dot-com billionaires involved in sports. I think Bill Gates would make a great NBA owner. Imagine. He can give away free software at the gate, and put Microsoft Network passwords on the bottom of selected soda cups. Hmmm, I wonder if the Sonics are for sale.

I'm not sure David Stern would like it, though. After all, we're talking about a man who isn't afraid to take on the Federal Government. I don't think Bill would sweat Stern's consternation (any more than Mark Cuban does).

How about those billionaire kids at Yahoo! They'd at least have an excuse for acting childish at games.

I like fan-centric owners. Stern should too. Like the section115 motto says: " because the fans are still the most important part of the game!"

Former St. Louis Browns and Chicago White Sox owner Bill Veeck was baseball's answer to P.T. Barnum. The quintessential promoter (and a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame) would stop short of nothing to draw a satisfied crowd.

In 1951, Veeck sent a three-foot-seven midget to the plate to lead off a game between the Browns and the Detroit Tigers. Baseball officials were outraged, but Eddie Gaedel took his place in the batters box and produced baseball's smallest strike zone. It is referred to as the greatest promotional stunt in the history of baseball.

I imagine Stern would call the stunt childish. Veeck critics accused him of "making a mockery of the National Pastime" and the A.L. ordered him to release the tiny player. In case you're wondering, Gaedel walked on four pitches and was replaced by a pinch runner. Did I mention Veeck is in the Baseball Hall of Fame?

Just a thought: if the Browns had kept Gaedel in the game, and let him play the field, would it be presumptuous of me to assume he would position himself at, dare I say it, shortstop?

There are plenty of owners who deserve to be vilified by the sports media.

Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder deserves to be called "brat". Not only did he try to buy himself a Super Bowl and interfere with football operations, but he committed the grandfather of all gaffes! He had the audacity to charge the good fans of our nation's capitol ten bucks a head to watch training camp sessions!

Forty-four years later, Walter O'Malley is still the most hated man in Brooklyn, having moved the New York City Borough's beloved Dodgers to Los Angeles after the 1957 season.

You won't find Art Modell's statue in the Cleveland Fan's Hall of Fame any time soon. He moves the Browns to Baltimore, then builds a Super Bowl winner.

What Baltimore fan can forget the way Robert Irsay packed up the Colts under the cover of nightfall in 1984 and moved lock, stock and barrel to Indianapolis?

We need more childish owners like Mark Cuban. He bought a 280 million-dollar ticket to watch his favorite basketball team play. Let him have at least as much fun as the rest of the fans.


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